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H2O Man

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Member since: Mon Dec 29, 2003, 08:49 PM
Number of posts: 69,738

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Stand By Me

"When the night has come
and the land is dark
and the moon is the only light you'll see
No I won't be afraid, no I won't be afraid
Just as long as you stand, stand by me."

After attending three board meetings in three different towns in a twenty-four hour period, I needed some time to relax. As I often do, I headed for my pond yesterday afternoon. As I approached its edge, my eyes picked up on a tiny movement .... then another. Seeing two itty-bitty toads, less than a quarter of an inch, making their way out of the pond, and into the big world, brought a big smile to my tired and wrinkled old face.

Ever since I was a wee-little boy, who found some bit of peace and relaxation at the pond on my parenets' property, I have been fascinated by these tiny creatures. In fact, I developed a love for toads of all ages and sizes. In my childhood, living out in "the sticks," toads were rather common to encounter. In recent years, however, due to environmental damage caused by industry, toads are not so common. So I was very happy to have the opportunity to watch these two little fellows making their way to destinations unknown, by way of tiny hops, a brief rest, followed by more hops.

I built a small fire in the stone-lined pit that my sons made for me years ago. As it was quite hot outside, being near the fire wasn't really comfortable. I used some locus bark to rid the area of the many flying insects that would otherwise identify me as a source of nutrition. And, in time, that small fire became a medium-sized one, with plenty of coals for cooking. I wrapped some Idaho potatoes and ears of "salt & pepper" corn in tin foil, and place them in the pit. My teenaged daughters are convinced that with just these two items, their father can create the single greatest meal to be found on the planet. I tend to agree. Decades of experience in cooking in a fire comes in handy, I suppose.

A moment after I sat back to watch the pond as the food cooked, our puppy "Rocky" came running through the tall grass. He prefers running in the grass to following the mowed paths. Rocky's imagination is evident out at the pond: he races around the edge of the water, howls at dragonflies and frogs, and engages in fierce battles with cat-tails. He gets me laughing out loud.

And then, my wife, daughters, oldest son, and a family friend/ school teacher who has attended two of the board meetings come out to the pond. Along with the items needed to eat our meal, they are carrying five guitars, two flutes, and two bongos and two congo drums. The four females inform me that they have formed a "group," and as my son and I tend to the fire, they perform a few songs, including "Stand By Me."

Then we eat. Life is good.

"If the sky that we look upon
should tumble and fall
And the mountains should crumble
to the sea
I won't cry, I won't cry
No I won't shed a tear
Just as long as you stand, stand by me."

Earlier in the week, NYS Governor Andrew Cuomo okayed a "leak" to reporters, indicating that he has decided to allow hydrofracking in the part of the state known as the Southern Tier. I had immediately, after reading this in the NY Times, called Robert's office. He is on a much-needed vacation with his children, and there is no way to contact him until they return. Fair enough, given recent circumstances.

One of the pro-environment, anti-hydrofracking groups that I have worked with in the past couple years has no meaningful response planned. Most of that group's leaders are excited about a new, matching button and yard sign they have made. As the group is primarily composed of what might best be described as "yuppies" -- and I intend no negatives or positives with that word -- and are inexperienced in terms of social-political action.

One of the very few members with previous experience (from the 1960s) suggests that "now is the time" to engage in the tactics of Alinsky. I suggest that Alinsky's tactics are primarily to build a foundation, something we have already accomplished. Now, in my opinion, is the time to build upon that foundation ..... by using the tactics of Gandhi and/or King, to bring about "creative tension." At a special meeting on Wednesday, near Binghamton, he and I will both be trying to convince others to support our different points of view.

At the special town board meeting I attended yesterday, an attorney made a presentation on the legal options that community now has. This attorney and his partner (his wife) are retired from a career in corporate law in Boston; they have created a new legal foundation to fight to protect the environment. They wrote the law enacted by two upstate communities, Middlefield and Drydon, which the gas industry challenged in NYS Supreme Court. (The industry has opted not to appeal the decisions in the cases, which favored the towns' right to protect the environment.)

I spoke briefly at this meeting, about the planned, coordinated injunctions our side will be filing immediately, should Cuomo give the gas industry the "green light" to use the Southern Tier" as a "sacrifice area" for hydrofracking. I recommended -- politely -- that this board not act (or fail to act) in a manner that creates an expensive legal battle for the tax-payers residing there.

In terms of the infamous town of Sidney -- with their notorious Town Supervisor Bob McCarthy, who made national news two years ago, by trying to forcefully remove the burials of Islamic people from a cemetery -- things look grim. Last year, a bi-partisan committee ran two good candidates for town board seats. Both won, removing two toxic "tea party" republicans. However, months after the election, the man died unexpectedly. Two weeks later, the woman's husband died unexpectedly; McCarthy has used the opportunity to bully the widow without mercy or decency, and this week, she resigned.

The town's Democratic Party contacted me. In 48 hours, we have identified two solid candidates for in the fall elections. Both agreed to run, on the condition that my sons and I run their campaigns. We will, of course, be happy to do just that. Still, between now and November, McCarthy will be able to appoint two jackals to fill those seats, and to have five pre-election months to advocate for the gas industry. Clearly, we will target Sidney for legal action.

In the mean time, I am considering engaging in another hunger strike, this time to focus on Andrew Cuomo. My wife is strongly opposed to the proposition, due to her concerns about my health. (I spent over an hour in an MRI tube earlier this week -- I became convinced that they'd have to do a C-section to get me out.)

The last one, in January, did take a toll. But I believe that I'm better prepared to do one now, at least in terms of publicity, etc. My health ain't the best, and I'd surely prefer to sit and watch my pond, rather than sit outside the state capital in Albany. But making matching buttons and lawn signs just doesn't cut it. Nor does debating possible tactics in endless meetings.

Obviously, I'm leaning towards started my Capital Hunger Strike. Next weekend, my older daughter graduates, and after that, I should have some free time on my hands. One of the factors in making my decision will be potential support. I don't think that many of the local pro-environment, anti-hydrofracking folks will be willing to join me -- one elderly woman, a retired school teacher who has since earned her PhD -- has expressed interest. But that isn't the primary form of support I'm looking for. Rather, I'd like to think that there are folks ..... both locally and even across the country -- who would support me, by way of doing things like lobbying Cuomo's office, and contacting various media sources.

And that's why I'm writing this: to ask if you would be willing to support me on this? Thank you for your consideration.

H2O Man

Rainy Day, Dream Away

"Rainy day, dream away
Ah, let the sun take a holiday
Flowers bathe and I see the children play
Lay back and groove on a rainy day ....

Rainy day, rain all day
Ain't no use in gettin' uptight
Just let it groove its own way
Let it drain your worries away
Lay back and groove on a rainy day ....."
-- Jimi Hendrix; Rainy Day, Dream Away

Actually, for part of the morning, I wasn't watching "children play" ..... though I did go on a walk with a couple of my dogs. And they found the rain and mud delightful to play in. As we are expecting a storm, I clipped enough roses and other flowers to fill three vases. But that's beside the point .....

One of my favorite hobbies on rainy days is to read. And I have four new books that I'm currently reading. The first is Douglas Brinkley's new book, "Cronkite." Any mainstream journalist who enjoyed a friendship with Abbie Hoffman -- and appreciated that Abbie was serious about what he did -- is okay by me. It's obvious that there isn't currently a mainstream journalist of Walter Cronkite's stature, and that's a shame. While it is well and good that there are more television news resources than ABC, CBS, and NBC, there should be more respectable journalists, from a variety of backgrounds and viewpoints, than there currently are. And while Douglas Brinkley isn't among my favorite authors, the book is well worth reading.

The second one I bought was Arthur Mercante's 2006 "Inside the Ropes." Mercante was an outstanding boxing referee, who was the "third man" in the ring for more championship fights than anyone else. He was the ref in "The Fight of the Century," between two undefeated heavyweight champions, Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali. Years ago, when my boys were 7 and 4, we had the chance to meet Arthur at the International Boxing Hall of Fame. I have a copy of a regional news station's film of Mercante playing with the boys.

The third book is one my wife bought for me this past weekend. It's Edward Klein's 2009 "Ted Kennedy: The Dream That Never Died." Klein, a foreign news editor for Newsweek (he also worked/wrote for The New York Times Magazine, Vanity Fair, and Parade), has authored a series of cheesy "Kennedy books." Although I wouldn't waste a penny on one myself, I am glad that it was at least on "the stacks," and reduced in price by 88%.

The last is my favorite of the four: it's Robert Caro's "Lyndon Johnson: The Passage of Power." This is the fourth in his series on LBJ; originally, he planned to complete the task in four books, but this 700+ page volume is focused primarily on Johnson's vice presidency and early presidency. Thus, he will produce a fifth book.

After reading the 2002 "Master of the Senate -- the third book -- I've had the opportunity to communicate with Caro. Like him, I find LBJ fascinating and repulsive, frequently at the same time. He is, in my opinion, the second strangest man to hold that office, closely following Richard Nixon. The "presidential" section of my library has the most books by/about John Kennedy, then LBJ, and then Nixon. My father thought Johnson would have been second in greatness to only FDR, but for the Vietnam War. But, of course, Vietnam was real, and thousands of people died or where injured, due to LBJ's policies.

The book is valuable because it documents, better than any previous book on the topic, how as Vice President, Johnson attempted a grab for an unconstitutional amount of power. The one area where I strongly disagree with the author, is his claim that no other VP had had such powers. The facts is that Nixon, under Ike, actually was running the US policy on Cuba and Central America. Johnson was seeking to continue in similar tradition. Luckily, however, JFK limited LBJ's attempts to influence either foreign or domestic policy. This was good, at very least in the case of Johnson's advocacy of a vicious military strike on Cuba during the missile crisis.

Times change. The Office of the Vice President is no longer what it was in 1960. When the VP is a person of the quality of an Al Gore or Joe Biden, there can be advantages in having a capable person from that office. But, when it is a Dick Cheney, the reasons the Founding Fathers purposely limited the power of the office are clear.

I definitely recommend this book to anyone interested in that era's curious history.

Soldier, Your Eyes

"No soldier ever won a war by dying for his country." -- attributed to General George Patton

While I'm not entirely pleased by yesterday's events in Wisconsin, I'm also not entirely disappointed. I refuse to accept the mainstream definitions, presented by the media, of what constitutes "victory" or "defeat." A number of times, over my years on this forum, I've quoted from Sean Wilentz's 2005 classic, "The Rise of American Democracy: From Jefferson to Lincoln," which I will paraphrase from again -- because it is important. At least, I think it is very important."

On the first page of the book's preface, the author provides accurate definitions of two dynamics, which have been closely associated with socio-political struggle since the days of our Founding Fathers. The word "republic" comes from "res publica," meaning "public thing"; it means government by the elite. And "democracy," coming from "demos krateo," or "rule of the people," means just that: socio-political power to the people.

In this context, I view events in Wisconsin as largely positive. It would have been huge to beat this fellow Walker, and the lose is significant. Still, the effort by the grass roots -- including unions and school teachers -- laid a large rock for a foundation-stone for us to build upon. These people caught the public's eye and imagination ..... and I dare say, the eye of the 1& that rules the political and economic system of the nation. ( Those that rule in politics and economics have a disproportionate influence on all sociological dynamics as well.)

As a registered democrat who has long worked for the party at the grass roots' level, and who also inhabits the Democratic Left (which is not limited to the left-wing of the Democratic Party), I'm actually encouraged by Wisconsin. One of the major influences on my socio-political thinking was Minister Malcolm X. And, before connecting Malcolm and Wisconsin, let me again note that besides reading almost every book written by or specifically about Malcolm, and many others that include him, I've also had the extreme pleasure of a 40-year friendship with a man who was good friends with both Malcolm and Martin Luther King, Jr. And that friendship allows me to place certain things in a unique context.

In his years in the Nation of Islam, Malcolm generally avoided "politics." That was NOI policy, and for most of his career in the group, he believed it to be correct. Malcolm notably spoke of state and national politicians as "foxes and wolves" (democrats and republicans) that played a game to control and exploit the public. He spoke of them as being "in cahoots" with the other party, and always working to enrich -- often violently -- the common person.

By the time he would become separated with the NOI, he often blurred the lines on things political. And after the NOI divorced him, Malcolm became very political, indeed, although always as a black, Islamic victim of the American socio-political ruling class. Thus, for example, he had a close association with Rep. Adam Clayton Powell. He was also friends with Percy Sutton and Charlie Rangel. And he was an important supporter of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party -- and any DUer not familiar with the MFDP should take the time to learn about it. The MFDP didn't "win" in 1964, by the news media's definition. But, like the grass roots in Wisconsin, they laid a powerful foundation stone.

Malcolm, of course, did not limit either his friendships with, or support for, those in politics that were registered in the Democratic Party. He had ties to many others in the Democratic Left in this country, and "leftists" abroad. This, of course, was why Malcolm was viewed as much more dangerous to the powers-that-be after he left the NOI. But that's another topic, to discuss at another time.

Now, because I have never believed in sitting back to admire what was accomplished in the past for too long, I think that there is no good reason to waste any opportunity that the Wisconsin events create for us today and tomorrow. Because any time we allow an opportunity to pass by, we do lose .... we lose that opportunity, and every potential it holds. And while we may encounter some future opportunity that looks, feels, sounds, smells, and/or tastes the same, it really ain't the same opportunity, at all. This brings us to -- to borrow a book title from Rev. King -- "where do we go from here?"

Grass roots organizing is essential. This includes building and strengthening linkages with other groups in our community, our local area, and state- and nation-wide. That's a given: we have the opportunity to grow the movement towards democracy.

In the context of those groups that I am currently working in/with -- which include a few pro-environment/ anti-hydrofracking organizations, the county Democratic Party, a regional bi-partison socio-political group, and a congressional campaign -- I continue to put emphasis on "doing." Too frequently, in my opinion, people who I am associated with are taking extended breaks: some are advocating the "not now" approach, choosing to have little parties to celebrate past efforts; some don't want to "make waves"; etc, etc. Now, I don't want people to "burn out" -- although I fail to see how or why people do, at this point in time. I suspect that subscribing to the mainstream definitions or "winning and losing" plays a big part, and that my not accepting those very definitions from being imposed on my thinking helps me to prevent ever "burning out." I believe that "burning out" causes us to lose valuable opportunities, just as fear and self-doubt do.

I will add that I do believe in making social/political activism "fun." Hence, I'm getting ready to -- what else? -- walk out to my pond with dogs, and with a spiral notebook and pen. On Friday, my oldest son and I are getting out a number of letters-to-the-editors of local and regional newspapers. Hardly a huge task or contribution to the democratic movement, but a sincere effort to make people think ..... for LTTE can actual make people think. And we must change the way people think, before we can expect them to change the way they act. Both Martin and Malcolm understood this to be true.

A final note: I have learned not to wear a brightly-colored bandana out at the pond. My son had loaned me one, and a humming bird thought my decorated skull was a promising flower.

Strange Days

I went to the high school this morning, to take care of some "school board business." When I left, I stopped at a "Quick Way" convenience store, to buy a copy of spiral notebooks .... I still do a lot of outlines and rough drafts by hand. Then, after I got home, I went out for a walk, to try to do a mental outline of a presentation that I have to do on Tuesday morning.

By chance (or not), I found two nice arrowheads .... one Levanna and one Madison .... a chipped fishing net-weight, two decorated pottery sherds, and a sinew stone. It's only the third sinew stone that I've ever found; the first one was stolen from me by a former co-worker in human services, who took about a half-dozen artifacts from me. Had he just asked, I'd have gladly given him some other artifacts, though I'd have kept that first sinew stone -- not only are they rare, but I had found it in a cave behind my parents' home, and so it had a special value for me.

Life is strange, sometimes.

On Memorial Day, a 9-year old boy from our school died as a result of a freak accident. It happened at a local parade, where he and his Little League baseball team were participating. A lot of students were there, including my two daughters. Both of them knew the boy.

One of the reasons that I ran for a seat on the board last year was because now that I'm retired, I have time to invest in something worthwhile. Our school is outstanding: the students get a great education, because we have a strong, caring faculty. It's a tough time for all public schools -- since the republican machine identified teachers' unions as Public Enemy #1. Cuts in state funding hurt all schools, and the rural districts in upstate New York like our's are really up against it.

But this is something very different than tax dollars and Albany bureaucrats. Because my specialty at the mental health clinic was "community crisis response," I immediately volunteered to serve in any and every way to provide support to the school. There has been a good response from the county mental health clinic, and professionals from surrounding communities. And they have been busy. Their work is really cut out for them.

Still, both faculty and administration need an outlet, and I've been glad to serve in that way. The little boy's funeral is tomorrow, and after the weekend, I expect that the shock will wear off, and people will begin to have even more need for support. On Tuesday, among the things planned, will be an assembly featuring speakers from a variety of backgrounds. I'm pleased that I was included in this.

What I plan to talk about is something that I've learned as a result of experiencing too many tragic events in my life, rather than anything I ever read in a text book at college. Without going into too much detail, I can sum it up this way: nothing good happens because of a tragic event, but a heck of a lot of good can happen despite the event. Indeed, that is a big part of the positive of human potential. Such tragic events can bring about the best in people ..... and we often find that in such times, ordinary folks can do extraordinary things.

And that, of course, is what is best in any society -- when people reach out and support one another, not because they have to, but because human beings really are good. And that's something that we should not take for granted.

When I spoke with our new superintendent today, I noted that he had come at a rough time. Not just the usual budget stuff, either. On the first day of the school, we had a flood that washed out the "dead end" road leading to the primary school, a heck of a start to the year. And there has been other strange events. Now this. He reminded me of a conversation we had a while back; a few community members had complained about his style of doing business, in part I believe because he is from a city, and not used to the much slower pace of "country culture." I had told these folks that, considering the crap we are having thrown at us from Albany, I think he might be the exact person we need right now. He told me that he keeps thinking of what I said, and in this difficult time, trying his best to live up to that.

As a parent, community member, and member of the school board, I'm doing my best, too. It's a tough time, and nothing less will do.


"Sitting on a pebble by the river playing guitar
Wond'ring if we're really ever gonna get that far
Do you know there's something wrong?
We'll stick together 'cause we're strong"
-- Julian Lennon, Velotte

In the hill-country of upstate New York, it's not uncommon to find open springs of water gurgling out from under a boulder. I have three of these currently flowing into my pond, as well as a few underground springs feeding it. On a warm, muggy day, my dogs Kelly and Rocky will play pond-side for a brief period, and then go cool off by laying in those springs. Rocky is our new puppy .... half German Shepherd and half Siberian Huskie. Since he looked like a raccoon when we got him, the Lennon-McCartney song "Rocky Raccooon" provided the source of his name.

With only the sun serving as a clock, day time at the pond is very different than "time" when one is at work, inside a building, or in a town or city. At first, as the dogs rest, my mind is crowded with nonsense about too many appointments and financial stress. Pretty soon, I'm watching the fish and birds, looking at various flowers in bloom, and envying that these animals and plants do not share my worries. They are here, now. And always at here, now.

Some of those appointments are fun. Watching my older daughter running in the finals of the sectionals in track. She doesn't win, and isn't happy with her time. Within minutes, she is both very happy and very sad: making it this far is rewarding for a person who has invested years of effort; but it's the end of her high school sports career. I watch as a number of coaches from other teams talk to her. Last year, she won a special award as those other coaches recognized her as being eager to work with anyone and everyone on improving in track.

Our coach assisted her in getting a position as an assistant coach on the track team of the college she's attending. He's loaned her every book and film on track that exists, it seems. She was running in another race today, as there are plenty of 5K races throughout the region. I suspect that while she's running so many miles in preparation for races, in her mind time expands, similarly to the way it does for me at the pond.

But otherwise, time has been pretty crammed and cramped lately. One afternoon this week, I picked her up at school, and we went to a ceremony where she was tied for a first-place state-wide scholarship. Then we went to a school event, where she was "officially" named valedictorian. She's maintained a 100 average throughout high school. I'm excited to watch this flower bloom. I think her future looks good. Still, I'm a little sad sometimes, because the time I've had with the girl I've called "Sugar Plum Fairy" since she was wee-little has gone by way too fast. And now she is a young lady who, one of my good friends assures me, ain't going to be living in this neck of the woods.

An independent media reporter called me this week, to ask if it would be okay to tape my daughter's speech at graduation. She met my daughter at the anti-hydrofracking meeting at the Pace University Environmental Law Clinic last month. My daughter has always made a strong impression on people, such as John Nichols and Elizabeth de la Vega ("we've just seen our next US Senator from New York," when at 14, my daughter gave an impromptu speech on non-violence), so I'm not surprised by the media request. But that is entirely up to my daughter, not me.

We should all be learning from our interactions with others. The most important thing that I've learned in 18 years with my daughter is the power of true gentleness. It allows logical and rational thought to flow properly. I've been thinking about that in the context of my participation here on this forum.

Some of the time, it can be difficult to be polite on even relatively petty discussions and debates here; for example, on "LBN," there's a Manson Family thread containing numerous inaccurate and false claims -- but is there really any reason to be short with an uninformed person, when simply directing them towards accurate sources of information is at least as easy?

And there are more important discussions and debates on "GD," about the 2012 elections. In particular, I've seen hostile responses to people either asking a question, or expressing their opinion. There is a wide range of perceptions, for example, on President Barack Obama: some people are quite satisfied with him, and others quite unsatisfied ..... and everything in between.(I do not care about, nor focus upon, those who "visit" DU for the wrong reasons. They are of no significance, and generally are removed from the ranks.)

I campaigned for Senator Barack Obama in 2008. I'm not particularly satisfied with his performance in office, but can understand and appreciate that others are. Some of the points that both sides make seem valid and valuable to me. In my own case, I'm going to be focusing my efforts on two areas other than the presidential contest: one election for a seat in the House of Representatives, and a few local elections. And also of interest to me is the sad reality that a segment of the population nation-wide will be engaged in campaign disruption and attempts to deny specific groups the right to vote.

It seems to me that the vast majority of DUers would agree that these issues are things we should be united in opposing. Indeed, that should be something everyone who respects our Constitution agree upon. And it is no coincidence that most of the jackals that seek to disrupt and keep others from voting happen to be republicans, doing the work of the 1%.

By the time Election Day rolls around, my daughter -- who will be voting for the first time -- will be hundreds of miles away at college. She likes President Obama, and thinks that he is doing better than I think he is. I think it's funny that although she has been a long-time volunteer at the county Democratic Party headquarters, she is registered "independent." We see things differently, which is good, but I know that it is essential for the Democratic Party to have allies like her.

H2O Man

The Sinful Disease of Hatred

"Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer,..."
-- 1 John 3:15

I watched the sentencing of Dharun Ravi today, in the Rutger's spycam case. Ravi was sentenced by Judge Glenn Berman for his role in spying on his college roommate, Tyler Clementi. Shortly after a couple of incidents of spying in September of 2010, Clementi would jump to his death off the George Wasington bridge.

The horror of this, and so many similar cases, should give reason for our society to re-examine it's hatred for those who differ from what is definied as "normal" in terms of sexuality. Sad to say, those infected with such hatred will respond much like Ravi, who refuses to see any connection between his criminal acts and Clemtenti's suicide. The self-righteous often attempt to pretend they inhabit some moral high ground, and repeat the tired "hate the 'sin,' not the 'sinner' " bullshit -- with all of the insight of a parrot.

Homosexuality is found in nature: hence, it is not "un-natural." The percentages in nature do not matter -- it is a natural, thus legitimate human experience. Hatred, on the other hand, is not found in nature: it is a man-made disease, that is un-naturally transmitted from one person to another. It is illegitimate. Yet, once unleased on a population, it demands a greater existence, much like a virus. And those who benefit from hatred -- who do so in a perverse way, I should add -- and those ignorant fools who become consumed by hatred, always look for some statistical minority to focus that hatred upon.

Lately, we've heard many of the hate-infected population say, "The bible clearly defines marriage as being between one man and one woman." Hence, we know those people are either purposely lying, or have never read the bible. Nor, if they have read it, do the grasp the meaning of the above quote, which falls among what are known as the harsh teachings of the book. These are aimed directly and exclusively at the self-righteous -- in this case, those fools who label nature as "sin," and who hatefully drive good and decent human beings to suicide.

A society that accepts the hateful making their brothers' and sisters' lives painful in this manner also owns the sin.

ESPN's Friday Night Fights

May 18

At Albany, N.Y. (ESPN2/ESPN3): Karim Mayfield vs. Raymond Serrano, 10 rounds, junior welterweights; Nick Brinson vs. Jason Escalera, 8 rounds, middleweights; David Telesco vs. Vincent Miranda, 8 rounds, cruiserweights; Kenny Abril vs. Bryan Abraham, 6 rounds, welterweights; Kevin Rooney Jr. vs. Anthony Jones, 4 rounds, middleweights; Tony Brinson vs. Lekan Byfield, 4 rounds, super middleweights.

My son Darren bought a couple tickets for ringside seats, and drove up from Long Island to pick up the Old Man. We're going to be heading out to Albany soon.

If you get a chance, watch the fights. I'll have a lot more on the card this weekend.

D got these as a birthday present -- he and I both had birthdays. Dang: no matter how old I am, I still get excited by being able to get out to the fights!

Regarding Manny Pacquiao

When Manny Pacquiao's statement, in which he expressed his opposition to President Barack Obama's stance on marriage equality, is but another example of how boxing transcends sports, and serves as a measure of socio-political dynamics. Let's take a closer look at this situation.

In fact, Pacquiao is himself a member of the House of Representatives in the Philippines. His status as an elite athlete provided him with the platform he needed to win that office. He has won "titles" in eight divisions -- from Junior Flyweight to Junior Middleweight -- including four lineal ("real" world's titles. His most consistent theme in his government service has been helping to poor.

It is no secret that Pacquiao, after he retires from boxing, wants to run for the presidency of the Philippines. Recent controversial "tax issues" suggest that the powers-that-be in his country are not in favor of his accomplishing this. But his statement opposing President Obama's stance on marriage equality is a controversy of his own making.

None of Boxing's greatest fighters have had a socio-political influence on their own. Boxing, as heavyweight champion Charles "Sonny" Liston said in the early 1960s, is like a cowboy movie: there's got to be a good guy and a bad guy. That's what people pay to see -- the good guy beat the bad guy. That, of course, doesn't always happen.

When Jack Johnson, the first recognized black heavyweight champion, defended his title against former champion Jim Jeffries (who had retired undefeated), white America had identified Johnson as the bad guy. But he easily knocked Jeffries out.

When the great Joe Louis defended his title against Max Schmeling, it was viewed as America versus the Nazi Germany. Louis won by first round knockout, after fracturing Schmeling's spine with a vicious blow.

And when Muhammad Ali came out of the forced retirement (for refusing to be drafted) to challenge Joe Frazier, it was much more than two undefeated heavyweight champions meeting for the first time. Ali represented the anti-war, pro-civil rights population, and Frazier -- not by choice -- represented blue collar, white Nixon supporters. Frazier won a 15-round decision.

The man standing opposite of Manny Pacquiao is undefeated champion Floyd Mayweather, Jr. Outside of the boxing community, Manny has been viewed as a "Golden Boy" -- clean-cut, polite, and even charming in his attempts to become a recording artist. Floyd has largely been viewed as the "bad guy" -- indeed, he is scheduled to begin a three-month jail term for domestic violence in June.

When Senator Barack Obama was running for president, he wanted to appear publicly with Floyd Mayweather. However, his advisors rejected the idea, because of Floyd's public image. Manny Pacquiao would visit President Obama at the White House, in a move that got a lot of media attention. More recently, President Obama got together with Floyd, without media coverage.

The boxing community views the pair very differently than does the American general public. We are aware that Floyd comes from a family in which two of the most important people in his life -- his father and Uncle Roger -- have histories of domestic violence. (Also, when Floyd was about five years old, his father held him in front of himself, for protection from the gun that an associate in crime was pointing at him.) Floyd has had problems in this area, too. Domestic violence is something that the boxing community strongly disapproves of, and wants Floyd to be held accountable for. We also know that people who commit domestic violence can change.

We view Pacquiao differently than does the general public, too. There is a controversy about drug-testing that derailed the first scheduled PacMan vs Money Mayweather bout. In January of 2010, ESPN's Teddy Atlas reported live, on the Friday Night Fights, about two e-mails that the a Pacquiao representative sent to the Mayweather camp: the first asked how large a fine they would demand when Manny failed the tests; the second asked if they would agree to keep it secret "for the good of boxing."

Steroids and related performance-enhancing drugs are a growing problem in boxing, as they are in other sports. But there is an important distinction. It's not just that Manny had a suspicious "growth streak," in which his endurance increased as dramtically as the size of his head. Or that he came out of nowhere to break Henry Armstrong's hard-earned record. A baseball player may break the home-run record by cheating; but in boxing, one risks serious injury (or death) when the opponent cheats.

Pacquiao's position against marriage equality may cement his popularity among the hate crowd. But Floyd's response to the controversy may suprise others, and perhaps gain him wider support:

"I stand behind President Obama and support gay marriage. I'm an American citizen, and I believe people should live their life the way they want." -- Floyd Mayweather; May 16, 2012

United Exiles

“Exiled in the Land of the Free: Democracy, Indian Nations, and the U.S. Constitution”
-- Oren Lyons & John Mohawk; Clear Light; 1992.

The head of the Sidney, NY Democratic Party contacted me earlier this week. She said that their notorious Town Supervisor, Bob McCarthy -- the man who put the town into the international spotlight two years ago, when he attempted to illegally force the removal of Islamic graves -- had been acting like a petty tyrant. I suggested that it wasn’t an act: Sidney’s town clown fits that description. She asked if I could attend the board meeting, and assist in putting Bob in check.

Out of habit, I arrived in Sidney early, allowing me access to a front-row seat. Soon, a local (retired) businessman, who serves as the head of the town’s planning board, sat beside me. I had attended high school with his daughters, and had been friends with their mother; all of them despised the old man. He and I have never been on anything less than hostile terms, and last fall, he and McCarthy had traveled to other community meetings, in part to heckle me when I gave presentations against hydrofracking.

The head of a regional energy corporation (who was also in school with me) had instructed both of these gentlemen to be “respectful” to me, probably because he was aware of my ability to use such clowns for props in front of the media. Thus, he greeted me with, “Hey, Pat. Haven’t seen you in a while.” This is the essence of a “company man” -- although he detests me, he submits to his superior’s instruction to be friendly towards me. Yet, this did not stop him from trying to secretly read my notes during the meeting. I, of course, made sure to let him see everything I wrote ….as much of it was for his consumption.

A friend who works for the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation sat on my other side. His knowledge of environmental law makes him a thorn in McCarthy’s side, and as soon as he sat down, McCarthy called the Village Police. McCarthy insisted that the responding officer remove my friend from the meeting. When asked for what cause, McCarthy could only say, “Because I don’t want him here.” The officer refused to take any action beyond reminding McCarthy that it was an open meeting.

During the meeting, McCarthy continued to display his utter contempt for open government. First, he was verbally abusive to a town councilwoman, who questioned his “authority” to force board members to tell him how they planned to vote on certain issues, days before the meeting. Second, when the Town Clerk reminded him that Governor Cuomo had recently signed an “open government” law that he was violating, McCarthy insisted he didn’t have to obey “expensive” laws.

I could, of course, go on and on in giving examples of how this tea party republican, with his single-celled brain, governs. But I think that you get the picture. And as much of a buffoon as Bob McCarthy may be, he is unfortunately symptomatic of what is wrong in government on a state and national level -- much as his sniveling friend from the planning board is of business.

But what does this, you may be asking, have to do with the book I referenced at the top of this essay? Quite a bit, actually.

My intention here is not to debate the role that Native Americans -- in particular, the Six Nations Iroquois Confederacy -- played in influencing the Founding Fathers of the United States. From previous experience on this very forum, I know that the majority of folks here are aware of that influence. It would be hard, perhaps impossible, to look at Franklin’s Albany Plan of Union, where the federal government was to be known as the Grand Council, and not see any connection. Or the Articles of Confederation. Or the Constitution. However, should anyone have sincere doubts, please read chapter six of this book, Donald Grinde’s “Iroquois Political Theory and the Roots of American Democracy,” and we can go from there.

The European experience had been something that should sound familiar to everyone here. Briefly, before there were nation-states, most of Europe was subjected to the system known as feudalism. The peasants were engaged in agriculture, and ruled by an imperial force within a castle. When the king needed soldiers to rob, steal, and kill for him, he “drafted” the young men of the peasant families into his service. While the king did have advisors and aides, he had the final word in ruling over everyone’s life. And this included his “taxing” the poor for his service.

As agricultural methods improved, and provided surplus goods, the Europeans began to engage in two things that would stratify their society: industry and a greatly increased amount of trade. Hence, a new powerful group arose: the merchants. As the “corporate” interests banded together, they became powerful enough to reach an almost-equal footing with the king. Added to this was the political power of the Pope in Rome. The balance was that merchantilism replaced feudalism, thus establishing nation-states; and with that, men who searched distant parts of the globe for gold, glory, and God.

We’ll skip over how Spain brought Christian civilization to Central America, even though it no doubt would appeal to Bob McCarthy’s sense of self-righteousness. Fast forward to England’s Thirteen Colonies, including its ruling class of merchants, who were caught up in a conflict: being under British rule had some comfortable advantages for them, but there were too many pesky taxes.

Certainly, those “Founding Fathers” were fully human, which included having faults and weaknesses. But they believed in the Power of Ideas. And many of them -- including those who met at Albany to plan their new nation, and those at the later Constitutional Convention -- were very familiar with Native American thinking in terms of freedom and democracy. And those less familiar had the opportunity to listen to the representatives of the Iroquois Grand Council of Chiefs, who attended both of these (and many other related) meetings.

The Iroquois had been guided by a socio-political school of thought that no Europeans had been exposed to before coming into contact with the Native Americans of the northeast. These include the concept that all human beings are equal, and have certain inalienable rights. They included the concept that one should never submit to the whims of a “king” or “merchant.” Listen closely to those who have proven themselves to be Good and Wise. Yet, “think for yourself, and act on the behalf of your people” was a basic truth.

Those Founding Fathers didn’t get everything right. Non-white people, and white women and children were obviously not included in the mix of those with rights in the United States. And while I’m not a person who would take a “be patient -- all good things in their time” position, progress has been made. Not enough: the “controversy” of equal rights in marriage shows that the Bob McCarthy virus still infects too much of our society to call us healthy.

What I will say is this: the message of the Iroquois -- that the white folk should “become Indian” -- did not imply that the Founding Fathers and their families should abandon the colonies and most to Indian communities. No, it meant then -- as it means now -- that they needed to think the thoughts the Indians thought, to behave in the general manner the Indians behaved in, and to refuse to submit to a cruel and criminal “authority” that morally sick individuals and institutions claimed. And that those colonists who banded together, and exercised the Power of the Good Mind, could overcome any stumbling block planed in their way.

Fromm on Romney

I'm finding the discussions on DU regarding Willard Romney's bullying as a high school senior very interesting. The majority of the OPs & posts that I've read have accurately identified the absolute character trait that Romney displayed then .... and continues to display today, though in what the 1% identifies as in a "winning" way. A few, including some have appear to experience difficulty caused by the blurring of their youthful behaviors, do not grasp the implications.

In an effort to keep this OP short, I will recommend that anyone and everyone here would do well to get ahold of a copy of Erich Fromm's 1973 book, "The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness." Some of my old buddies here will know that Fromm is the "social-thinker" who has had the greatest influence on the way I view society; a couple may even recall my speaking of this particular book here, in the past.

In my opinion, this book would be of more value for most folks than a current reading of the current mental health definition of anti-social personality disorder. This is in part because the "official" definition was altered to absorb the sociopath/psychopath, due entirely to the billing system of insurance companies. (But that is, of course, another topic for further discussion.) Equally important is that Fromm combines his usual fields of psychology and sociology, with history, genetics, and nature.

Briefly, Fromm writes that human beings can engage in two types of aggression: "benign" (or defensive) or "malignant" (or cruel destructiveness). A good case can be made that the benign aggression is rooted in the genetic "flight or fight" found in most of the animal kingdom. Malignant aggression, however, is a trait that infects only the human species.

An important point that I think too many people miss is the role the malignant agressor plays in society. Certainly, if one reads "true crime" books, say by former FBI profiler John Douglas, we are aware of how a "loner" can destroy the lives of those in his/her path for entertainment. But not all malignant aggressors do not always come individually unwrapped. Some are like former president George W. Bush, a man who delighted in the suffering of others from an early an age as high school senior Willard Romney.

In such cases, this type of person often rises to a leadership position. It usually isn't becoming the President of the United States, or even the head of a corporation. Such character traits can be found in many "gang" leaders, and I'm not restricting "gang" to the Bloods or the Savage Skulls. It is found in "good old boy" groups, and in the James "Whitey" Bulgers in our society. Indeed, in a sick cultural group (including sub-groups), extreme cruelty can be mistaken for "leadership ability."

Thus, the fact that Romney was the leader of cruel attacks is important for two significant reasons: first, as an individual, what internal flaw caused him to be violent and cruel to people his self-image caused him to try to define as "weak"?; and second, how did this play out in the group setting? It is no coincidence that Romney was the group leader, and that everyone in his gang (and who witnessed his cruelty) remembers the incidents that Willard claims to "not remember" -- a most obvious and glaring lie.

I'll end with this: I absolutely believe in human redemption. I think that people can change, even those who have been cruel and violent. But when it is a deeply rooted character flaw, the work required for such a change is visible. I do not see anything about Willard Romney's life or being that suggests he has changed.
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